For those not in the know, it was International Women’s Day yesterday. A day to celebrate women everywhere. In York, UK, where I live we were celebrating with a screening of Embrace – the Documentary. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about you can find out more here.
Basically Embrace is a body image movement founded by Taryn Brumfitt, an Australian who, fed up with hating her body and herself set about learning to love it and make peace with it. She posted a now infamous before and after photo of herself on Facebook – the before being her in the ‘perfect’ shape when she was a bodybuilder, and the after as her now, with a bit of a belly and some cellulite in irony to the traditional before and after pictures of women who go from fat to thin.
It went viral and since then Taryn has been on a worldwide journey to spread her message. I heard about her just a few months ago and was so interested because like many I am on a lifelong journey to make peace with my body.
I can remember as far back as primary school aged probably about seven knowing how much I weighed and that it was too much and I was ‘fat’. When I look back now I am devastated because actually, yes I was chubby, but you know what chubby is OK. Had I stayed chubby and accepted my weight, loved my body as the giver of life it is, I probably would have stayed that way. Instead I went though many, many years of detesting, despising and hating my body. My Mum had her own battles with food, and I guess didn’t want me to go through that too, but ironically the path my parents took of highlighting my eating and making jokes about my weight only embedded my hatred of myself further. At about 15 given the freedom to access food without parental control I went berserk and started scoffing anything I could. Cue 25 years of battles with my body to diet , lose weight, put weight on, hate myself, diet, lose weight, hate myself. You get the message.
About maybe five years ago I decided to stop. Being on that merry go round is exhausting. I decided to learn to make peace with my body , to nourish it and take care of it. This did not go as planned. The warm fuzzy feeling did not make me turn to kale before a Snickers. it did not help me lose 100 pounds overnight. I did not look down at my massive belly and stroke it with loving eyes. This was again somewhat of a frustration. I had chosen to love it, so why couldn’t I?
Cue aged 39 and I am still working on it. I am the fattest I have ever been. I am morbidly obese on that little chart that doctors use to define how ‘healthy’ we are. However I now use fat as a descriptor not something to bash myself with. As some are tall, some are thin. So some are fat. I do not love my belly wholeheartedly at this point, but we can be in a room together without eyeballing each other! And the result of this is I am making better food choices. I have cut sweetener out of my coffee, I am eating lots more vegetables (although I have to give credit to my wife who does the amazing healthy cooking we are eating) and I have made a pact with myself not to touch the biscuits at work because once I start, I won’t stop. I use mindful eating techniques to work on what and how much I eat. I am not doing this to lose weight. I did it to be healthier; both mentally and physically. In fact I don’t know how much I weigh; if I’ve lost weight or gained it. We made the brave, if somewhat scary choice to throw out our scales. Not because we don’t want to face what they say, but so we can choose to eat well because we want to love ourselves, not punish ourselves.
Back to Embrace – the documentary. I loved this film because it featured so many other women in the world who hated their bodies, beautiful women who couldn’t see in themselves what others did; fat women, anorexic women, scarred women, women with beards, women with hips, in wheelchairs, with disabilities. It was a positive celebration of us as women and of me as a woman. What it also showed was how the media only celebrated one virtually unobtainable image of what it means to be a woman, and how ridiculous that actually is. What also saddened me, although it didn’t surprise me, is the vitriol and hate that some women aim at others. By the way there was a lot of hating from the men, but as so many women are identified to hate their own bodies, why would you be hating on others?
I would ask you to think, if you’re reading this blog and you identify with these feelings of hate in yourself, or even if you are a body shamer and feel you can’t help highlighting other people’s bodies, you stop and think. Could you find a way to start to love your body? Could you find a way to turn your negative shaming into some positive praising? The world is changing, as social media reveals more and more and more women prepared to reject the media definition of beauty, our ideals reshape and reform. I am feeling positive for the future. Come along with me on this body positive movement.
If you have feelings of body hate, or want to change your body shaming approach, get in touch with me and we can have a chat about it. Or post a comment below. Thanks